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Singing in the Choir – Old-Fashioned, Heart-Opening Meditation

08 Mar

Shortly after my mother died, I was sitting in church listening to the choir and thinking, "I wish I could do that."  I have always loved to sing, but stopped about 3 decades ago because I'm not really a very good singer.  In my own mind I compared myself unfavorably to the many talented musicians in my family, including my mother who was a pianist.

On this occasion, I distinctly heard my mother's voice in my head, saying, "Well, I never meant for you to stop making music."  Soon after that, I started singing with the choir in my church.  We have a large choir -- more than 50 people when we're all there.  And we have an imaginative, enthusiastic, and very talented Director of Music, who helps us sing a wide variety of types of music -- classical, contemporary, old spirituals, jazz, gospel, African, Japanese, Chinese -- and she even composes for us at times.  I have been singing about 3 years now, and even though I'm still not among the best of singers, I love singing.  Working hard, learning something well, and performing together is such a JOY!
 
We had our traditional Lessons and Carols service last Sunday night.  I have felt just wonderful ever since -- all glowing and happy.  So I have been thinking: it's clear that singing in a concert together like that produces lots of endorphins.  Why?
 
Well, to begin with, singing sacred music in a choir is a natural imagery and mindfulness process.  To sing really well, you have to focus on the meaning of the music, i.e. hold a sacred, archetypal image in mind and think of it so clearly that the feelings that flow from that image fill your body. 
 
And along with focusing on the image, you have to know how to breathe, and to use your lungs and vocal chords and mouth and lips to form the words and pitches properly.  So, along with the inner dimension, there is an outer discipline of doing particular body things to make the music right.

You also have to have a moment-to-moment awareness of the other singers and musicians -- that is, you need to be mindful in the moment of a large number of people around you, and of the space you are in and its resonance, and the congregation and their response.
 
And then, when a choir works together well, there is an amazing community dimension to it.  We experience being one body together, making this music that is like an icon of sacred experience -- a window into sacred spheres.
 
Sacred singing -- a wonderful, multidimensional healing tool in a very traditional package, very accessible to many people right where they are.
 
Much love, happy solstice,   Abby

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award